Maintaining Personal Interactions While Working Remotely

COVID-19 has shown just how quickly companies are able to adapt to having a mostly-remote workforce. With virtual meetings, workers can stay safe at home while still maintaining productivity for work. 

But HR Dive’s Samantha Ann Schwartz asks if it might be too much of a good thing.

Gone are the days when you could drop by a coworker’s cubicle or find them in the break room to have an impromptu discussion. The ability to have those sorts of informal conversations throughout the day was important to company culture in the past. Now, those interactions have mainly been replaced by virtual meetings, and many workers are saying it’s too much.

Some companies like software development company TIBCO have been using tools such as Slack to help them manage collaboration and meeting times while still maintaining company culture with informal chit-chatting during the workday. 

“We’ve started to hold things like office hours, which are just kind of casual meetings, people can drop in and drop out wherever they want,” said Matt Quinn, COO for TIBCO, “and that actually takes care of a whole bunch of randomness.”

According to Quinn and others across a wide variety of businesses that are now virtual, workers need to have time to focus on their own tasks or just be away from what some perceive as being an endless stream of virtual meetings. All of the back-to-back meetings seem to be causing burnout.

The key, Quinn insisted in another recent interview, is to ensure company culture and the values instilled in employees remain even while trying to maintain business goals during the pandemic. “The office artificially tried to put that in place,” Quinn said.  Now it isn’t so much about having a cool corner office. Take all of those accouterments away, and “you’re left with people,” he said.

HR experts insist that the office will never be the way it was before the pandemic. Despite the challenges of time management, some workers thrive on the ability to integrate work and home life in the same space more fully.  Others will want the social interaction of physical office space.  In either case, companies will need to be flexible to entice and keep workers in the future and offer both.